I'm a huge fan of fLow and Flower, the latest games from the group who decided to call themselves, quite wittily, "that game company", complete with lower case letters and all. The point of the game really is just to move. In ANY of them, it's just to move.
What I did not know, even though I had already seen it once before, was that these were the people that also released the Indie game "Cloud".
=Notice a theme of one word, one syllable titles? No crazy 8 word descriptor like anything Tom Clancy will put out. But I digress. It just feels more ~clean~ with a short name.=
I didn't realize this connection until reading an article that point out this lovely little PC downloadable was the predecessor to their latest on the PS3 network, "Flower". Flower has an unusual premise, is infinitely intertaining, just challenging enough to keep one's attention, and entirely beautiful. Bob had no issues sitting on the couch while I "drove". Which you do. You tilt the controller and use the sixaxis to steer the wind. Besides speeding it up a bit, that's all you do. Two controls. An hour and a half of utterly engrossing gameplay.
Having never played Cloud, I opted to download it this afternoon and give it a shot. It hadn't seemed that interesting when it was first noted on G4's Indie Games blip, but at this point I don't think they described it very well. Actually, I think it was more a case of them not being sure what to make of it. It's not exactly a puzzler, it's not exactly... anything. But you do still interact with it, move objects and construct shapes for a purpose.
There is a story line behind it, about what seems to be a sick child trapped in a hospital room, and how he longs to fly. Having played the first, where you "make friends" with the clouds, and the second where you create a lollipop shape out of them, it's probably fair to say they'll all be based on the child's experiences.
It is a fun game to play. Really fun. I am normally dubious about downloading games to my PC of this sort, prefering to do it off of a CD I bought in a store that I know is virus-free, but I felt this one might be worth the chance.
You can definitely see the influence of this game on both fLow and Flower later on with the focus on player movement and environmental interaction. I'm hoping that this sort of thing becomes more common in the marketplace in the future, as I'm utterly fucking sick of FPS's. There is very little new to be done with a guy and target to use the gun on. And this is from the girl who skipped classes in college because she was winning Quake battles.
Of course, I will happily announce I'm wrong if someone decides to do something innovative there as well, but so far the game industry has proven full of clone-churning cowards.
Cloud, fLow and Flower are refreshing. You have a goal, there's no timed rush to get to it. You're not really penalized for missing the point the first time around. You can take as long as you want exploring. And while this might appeal more to the casual gamer, it's not entirely in their field. There is room for precision and timing within these as well. You have to be careful with your petals, or your clouds, or your amoeba, or you'll lose some of it. Or get eaten. Or miss finding something special up a hill in a stone circle. Exploration, ~aggressive~ exploration, is rewarded several times in Flower. A "real" gamer could take a good experience away from this as well.
I'd honestly have to say that if you don't think you like video games, or you want something relaxing that doesn't require managing finite resources, space marines, nazis, or mana pools, you're going to get a kick out of Cloud. Honestly, I would recommend all 3 of them, with the reservation that fLow has the stress of avoiding having your amoeba-guy get eaten the further in to the pool you go. The colors and motions are still relaxing, however.
Oh, just go frakkin' download it. You won't be sorry. You might be confused, though, since there's no grenades, bullets, or gold coins.